Four years ago I was surfing every day in San Diego, trying as hard as possible to stay in the water and out of class, and looking forward to graduation. Wow, maybe my life has been completely static for the last four years. Then again, maybe not.

Being a dedicated surfer requires a certain number of things. The most important of all is, of course, free time to spend in the water. This is the time in our lives as surfers when we realize that some things besides surfing actually matter. If my former self from four years ago read the words on this page, I would instantly be written off as a complete kook.

I go to most of my classes now, I have a job and a writing internship and surfing has slowly started sliding into the periphery of my daily life. Why, oh why have I committed this cardinal sin and sold my salty soul for a more land-based existence? Because I’m about to graduate, and like so many in my position, I want to brace myself for this fast approaching “real world,” and all of its ugly truths.

One of these truths is that climbing the ladder to success is going to require a lot of work, and unless you find a job with Patagonia, there won’t be surf breaks. What I’m telling you is what has been told to me ever since I was a grom: that surfing would eventually come between you and something important — be it school, girlfriends or career aspirations. This has never fazed me before. It was easy to label these wiser, older surfers as kooks who only want to tell you that you will have to forfeit surfing everyday because that’s what they did. They got scared and sold out — they bought houses and cars and cornflower blue ties that they could wear to the office every Tuesday. They moved further from the beach, where they could get settled in a quieter neighborhood that was closer to where they work. Now the once-a-week session is enough for them. Progressing as a surfer stops being the primary concern, but rather, not losing the knowledge that you already have becomes the main goal. Sound depressing? I think so too.

When you get older you stop making up excuses for blowing off responsibilities to surf, and you start making excuses for why your responsibilities prevent you from surfing. At this time in our lives, we need to tread very carefully. We need to remember that getting a good barrel will always be better than getting a bonus. Just because it gets harder doesn’t mean that we need to write it off completely. I still have dreams where I’m surfing, even when I haven’t been in the water in days. It’s like a drug — the withdrawals get bad for a little while, but eventually you don’t even think about it. We need to listen to these symptoms, not ignore them until they go away. If you start surfing less because of your work schedule, make a change. Everyone has filler that they can cut out of their day, and even a half an hour getting wet will make you feel that much better. I want to be a surfer and successful, and I don’t want to make too many compromises.

Looking back at my years spent at UCSB, I will never look back and reminisce on all the A’s I got on my papers, and how my hard work really paid off. I’ll remember waking up before the sun rose with my best friends, going to Sandspit and getting one of the best barrels of my life in the dawn. Life is short, and swells don’t wait until your day off. Go be successful, but don’t forget that time in the water is always well-spent, and you’ll never regret making time to paddle out.